Forty years ago, Michael Lerner, a Harvard- and Yale-trained political scientist, left a promising academic career to start Commonweal
that would serve at-risk children, help adults with environmentally related health problems and promote public education about environmental health. Today, Commonweal is host to over dozen different programs, including its reputed Cancer Help Program, which Michael began when his father was diagnosed with cancer. With intellectual brilliance and spiritual sensitivity, Michael has helped thousands of people, in small groups of eight participants, explore how to live with a life-threatening illness. In 1993, millions of Americans discovered this remarkable program when they watched Bill Moyers' documentary, "Wounded Healers
," the fifth part of his award-winning PBS series,"Healing and the Mind."
"The heart of being human is a search for meaning," Michael Lerner says. "We know the earth faces dire challenges -- our health and the health of all life on earth is threatened. What are the lessons we can learn from our efforts to heal ourselves and our communities that may help us heal the earth? And what can we learn from efforts to heal the earth that may help us heal ourselves and our communities? These are the great questions of meaning -- the great work of our time."
Michael's three personal interests at Commonweal are healing with cancer, healing and the environment, and exploring meaning in our lives. As the 30-year old Commonweal Cancer Help Program expands into Healing Circles, a learning community for people with cancer and other conditions of loss, many other programs continue to bloom as well. The Collaborative on Health and the Environment
now has 5000 partners in 40 countries exploring how the environment affects our health. The New School at Commonweal
has conducted over 200 conversations with thought leaders exploring questions in nature, culture and the inner life. Closely allied projects at Commonweal include Rachel Naomi Remen's Institute for the Study of Health and Illness, Rebecca Katz's Healing Kitchens Institute, Kate Holcombe's Healing Yoga Foundation, and James Stark and Penny Livingston Stark's Commonweal Garden and Regenerative Design Institute.
On this call, we'll explore with Michael this interface of healing ourselves and healing the earth -- and how healing and meaning -- or love and wisdom -- inform our efforts to act skillfully in service to others
Five Questions with Michael Lerner
What Makes You Come Alive?
Work of service. Alleviating suffering.<br />Commonweal's work in health and healing, education and the arts, environment and justice.
Pivotal turning point in your life?
The great spiritual and philosophical traditions. The perennial wisdom at the heart of all the traditions. Kindness, wisdom, service -- the work of the heart, the mind, and the hands.
An Act of Kindness You'll Never Forget?
After the rain, my wife Sharyle Patton often takes a walk in Bolinas and assists worms who have crawled out onto the street to get back to the side of the road so they are not crushed by cars.
One Thing On Your Bucket List?
To be fully alive until I die.
One-line Message for the World?
Live to serve. Service is love.